It’s all too easy to get distracted while working. Whether your coworker’s conversation is drawing your attention or you see the siren call of a Facebook notification, sometimes it can seem all but impossible to keep calm and carry on … working. So, we turned to 11 hard workers and got their top productivity hacks so that you, too, can stay focused on the job.
1. Do the small stuff stat.
“If a task can be completed in less than two minutes, then I finish it immediately. It doesn’t matter if it’s watering the plants or writing an email, I do it right now. If I postpone these small tasks, I experience the so-called snowball effect and it’s harder for me to concentrate and finish each one of the other tasks on my to-do list.” —Harriet Jones
2. Hide your phone.
“I leave my phone in my bag and only take it out at lunchtime and breaks. This cuts down on the temptation to check Facebook or group chats. I also put it on silent so I can’t hear the tempting notifications of the group chat—it can wait until lunchtime.” — Teresa Walsh
3. Prioritize your to-do list.
“Daily and weekly tasks can often feel daunting if you don’t know where to start. So, for my weekly tasks, I begin each week by writing down known tasks. Each task gets evaluated by three categories: time-sensitive, most important, or least desirable. The most time-sensitive task usually wins that No. 1 task spot, but I have a rule that the least desirable task must also be in the top five. Otherwise, I’ll push it down the list and never get it done.” —Bethany Epley
4. Turn on some ambient noise.
“We have an open-plan office, so it’s easy to get distracted by coworker’s conversions and music. I always keep my headphones at my desk, in case I need to turn on an ambient noise Pandora station and really get focusing on what needs to be done.” — Nicole Letendre
5. Move your body.
“To be my most productive at the office, I plan for 30 to 60 minutes of physical activity at some point throughout the day. Whether that’s going to the gym or for a walk around lunchtime, I find I am more productive when I break up my day like this. I think that taking time to get your muscles working and get your blood moving helps invigorate your mind as well as your body—not to mention, the endorphins your body is producing while you are active help to better manage stress and improve your mood.” —Jeff Hands
6. Reward yourself when work is done.
“I set specific goals for myself and use food as a reward. For example, I’ll say to myself, ‘I need to finish X task in two hours, and when I’m finished, I can eat my favorite snack.’ Food is a great motivator; I stay on task if I know my favorite food awaits.” —Laura MacLeod
7. Plan for tomorrow.
“My favorite productivity hack is spending the last 10 minutes of my day planning the next day. All too often I think people waste time at the start of their day thinking about what they’re going to do that day. But by creating a simple to-do list at the end of each day, you can hit the ground running as soon as you get into your place of work. The first hour is hugely important in ensuring productivity for the rest of the day.” —Jason Scott
8. Ignore your phone when it rings.
“I don’t answer any calls unless they are in my schedule. This prevents time from escaping, unscheduled tasks from occurring, and keeps me focused on scheduling all items that have priority. Even in [emergency] situations, I plan time to address it.” —Violette de Ayala
9. Automate your industry notifications.
“To eliminate distractions and still stay up-to-date with trends in my field, I use Feedly, an app that collects and organizes articles from around the web for me to read—when I have the time.” —Samar Birwadker
10. Set yourself up for success on Friday.
“Every Friday, typically in the afternoon, I spend an hour going through my email and file messages or delete messages I no longer need. It helps me stay on task and organized while also cleaning and weeding out what I do and do not need in my inbox.” —Caitlin Morse
11. Organize by hours.
“I gather up everything I may need for the next few hours at the start of the day. Drinks, snacks, tissues, a pad of paper, pen, phone—everything. This keeps me from taking breaks that turn into [never-ending] escapades.” —Jennifer Pike